Can you hear it? That’s the sound the NFL Draft rumor mill wheels churning and the Cincinnati Bengals are shoveling coal into the machine.
As it currently stands, and in using the correct variables (availability, need, past draft operating practices), we have a few names that seem to be obvious links to the team. “The Devin’s” (White and Bush), some boom-or-bust defensive linemen in the form of Rashan Gary and Montez Sweat, as well as Dwayne Haskins all seem to be players the Bengals would consider at No. 11.
Ed Oliver is a guy they’d undoubtedly spring for, if he’s there, while some offensive linemen like Oklahoma’s Cody Ford, Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Washington State’s Andre Dillard have to be in the conversation.
But, what is the small group the Bengals have it narrowed down to as they engage in their first draft class under Zac Taylor?
In plotting out some of the above-mentioned variables, while also attempting to sift through the myriad of rumors that inevitably spring up this time of year, the picture is becoming a bit clearer. At least we think it is.
Because of need, probable availability and the ushering in of the Taylor era, common knowledge tells us that the group is probably comprised of Haskins, Taylor, Ford, Bush and Gary. Cincinnati has traditionally liked big school kids who have shown the propensity to play well against high levels of competition and those five have shown that trait on film.
If Oliver falls in their laps because one of a couple of specific scenarios play out, he’ll undoubtedly be the pick, while Sweat, Williams and Clemson’s Christian Wilkins are also on the periphery. Each of these guys come with pros and cons, but a very good football player should slip to them at No. 11 because of the unpredictable nature of night one.
What may be even more interesting, though, is what the team does on night two. Some first round talents will be available atop the second round, and some signs point to a receiver being taken higher than some expect.
If Cincinnati doesn’t get one of those versatile defensive linemen in the first, could they go with the more traditional and mammoth-like Dexter Lawrence in round two, if he gets past New England and Los Angeles? What about a guy like Andy Isabella in the third round to work into Taylor’s play-action, four-receiver sets? The Rams liked their mid-round wideouts, as evidenced by recent picks like Cooper Kupp (third round) and Josh Reynolds (fourth round).
We’re close to one of the more interesting draft classes for the Cincinnati Bengals in recent memory. And, while this franchise is adverse to almost anything resembling the label of “progressive,” there should be some twists and turns this coming weekend.
Speaking of picks, one of our listeners on The Orange and Black Insider submitting his own four-round mock draft. We thought it was interesting enough to share on air and in this mailbag.
Here’s how the mock played out:
Round 1, pick 11: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
Round 2, pick 42: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
Round 3, pick 72: Alize Mack, TE, Notre Dame
Round 4, pick 110: Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
I’ll save time with a bypass of Bush, seeing as how he’s been talked about quite frequently here. The other three are interesting picks, with high upside. Some are also major risks, though—particularly for a Bengals team in need of immediate contributors to their team.
Howard is a guy who might sneak into the back end of the first round, even though he went to a lesser-known football school. He has work to do at the next level and could benefit from good coaching, but as a former quarterback around the time he entered college, the athleticism and IQ are there for the molding.
When we received this mock, Mack was a guy I knew the least about in this group of four prospects. And, like many of his Fighting Irish predecessors at the position, he has good size (6’4”, 250 pounds) and should prove to be a viable red zone target in the NFL.
His blocking needs work and there have been some “concentration drops” in his history, but he could become a decent rotational tight end. I think he’s more of a day three guy, but he’s definitely a name they should consider as they look to add more talented contingency plans at the group.
Rypien, the nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien, is one of the more interesting players in this year’s draft. If the Bengals don’t grab a quarterback on night one, it’s very likely that they wait until day three to grab a developmental guy for backup competition with Jeff Driskel.
At 6’2” and 210 pounds, Rypien doesn’t have the size that most scouts look for in a viable NFL quarterback. Of course, there are outliers in the molds of Russell Wilson and potentially Kyler Murray, but Rypien doesn’t have their athleticism. He does have a high football IQ, is accurate with his passes and was productive for the Broncos (90 career touchdown passes, 64% career college completion percentage and an average of 3,395 passing yards per NCAA season).
This is the type of player who could come in and immediately take a hold of the backup quarterback position in Cincinnati. He would probably grasp the system well early on and could be effective in the rare spot starts for Andy Dalton.
However, the Bengals would probably be looking for another long-term starting option in 2020 or 2021 should they go this route. Which is fine, as many folks want to see what Dalton can do in Taylor’s new system.
Another question that came our way on OBI was in the potential need for a more traditional style fullback in the Bengals’ offense. Back in the day, thumpers like Daryl Johnston and Lorenzo Neal are what were needed for guys like Emmitt Smith, Corey Dillon and LaDainian Tomlinson to get record-breaking performances.
However, as the NFL has developed into more of a passing league, these walking squares of football players have become passe. What’s the deal?
Well, there are two main reasons for this evolution. Because of the need/desire of pass-catchers at multiple positions in an offense, units have either opted for players in the H-Back mold, or have eliminated from their final rosters altogether.
Zone blocking schemes have also made the need for the traditional fullbacks slamming up the middle less frequent. These schemes have a lot of outside runs and sometimes require a back to be patient and pick their lane. Joe Mixon frequently ran without an additional blocker in the backfield, as well as out of shotgun formations.
Cincinnati may opt to look for some of these H-Back-type of players in this years draft—or at least fullbacks who have more versatility than some of the older molds. West Virginia’s Trevon Wesco is an interesting player, as is Wisconsin’s Alec Ingold.
But, Taylor will need to be able to use these players effectively in his system. One of the criticisms of Marvin Lewis is that, while he was able to gather talented players, he didn’t always use them to their maximum potential (see: Burkhead, Rex). The Rams did occasionally use Tyler Higbee out of the backfield, so maybe Taylor can adopt some of those concepts with a potential rookie H-Back in Cincinnati.
For now, we don’t expect the Bengals to be employing a true, old school fullback on the roster.
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